Howdy, parents + caregivers – our post-pandemic, busy lifestyle has endured a life of its own, and may we say, the juggle is real! Families are feeling stretched, time seems to run away from us, and during the school year: our kids are inundated with classes, homework, sports, clubs, and other extracurricular responsibilities that take up so much of their time.
Luckily when summer rolls around, our kids have the chance to let their hair down and just breathe. It also gives us parents the chance to take some well-deserved time out and reconnect with our precious little ones in a more meaningful way: in planning simpler activities that support our family’s health + wellness, and that seek to instill good values in our children.
but first … why connection is important
It is commonly known that connection is so important to healthy development in children because it means that as a parent: you are not only physically present, but emotionally present. Connection means opening yourself up to paying attention to your child, taking an interest in what they are doing, and making sure your child understands that they greatly matter in your life.
Connection helps to meet your child’s emotional needs, namely their self-confidence and self-esteem, and teaches them how to love others as well. To foster their greater sense of wellbeing, we parents are commonly advised to harness positive, responsive connections with our children – especially when time slows down in the summer months!
what are the benefits
Building daily habits of connection such as giving hugs, having one-on-one time, and most importantly - giving them your full attention, can greatly enhance and solidify your relationship with your child. It can commonly calm + minimizes their stress, make them feel like they belong, and hopefully prevent possible behavioral issues from manifesting themselves.
Keen to reconnect and slow down with your kids? Here are a few things you can do this summer to create more meaning and fun in your children’s lives!
10 ways to connect with your kids in today’s busy world
1.have a reading session together
Kids may love it when you read them a story, but golly gosh - what if you acted out the parts together? It would be like acting in a play, right? Reading out loud in a character’s voice is known as a great way to connect and to entertain your kids. Whether it’s picture books or their favorite chapter books - having a fun reading session together can really lighten up the atmosphere and make every second count!
Keen to find some books? Why not pack up the kiddos – and head to your local library! Even better – look online to see if they may also hold reading sessions ‘out loud’ for kids, followed by an engaging craft activity! Afterwards, you can peruse the shelves with your little one, borrow some books and then read them together at home for a reading marathon!
Sound like too much work? Simply sit and cuddle up with a book – even very young babies and children can follow along with the pictures and love to hear your voice telling the story. They can turn the pages and point to things – making it an interactive experience as well.
2. create an at—home spa
When our babies are born, we are often encouraged to connect + stimulate their development through touch and massage. The same theory applies here for our children’s needs too! Why not take some time out to connect by creating an ‘at-home spa ritual’– taking turns giving hand, foot, or scalp massages, while at the same time helping your kids combat their seasonal dryness or skin sensitivities: with cruelty-free skin care products, to boost their skin’s summer hydration!
3. do a digital detox
Mealtimes are a great way to connect with your kids, without digital distractions. A great way to do this is by taking turns around the table, where each member of your family expresses a high point of the day, followed by a low point of the day. High and low points teach kids of all ages that we are all humans at heart. In fact, the process of listening to each other’s feelings gives all kids more compassion + empathy for other people. It also may help older kids relate to their friend’s experiences too, for example, and learn how connecting with friends without their phones can also be incredibly valuable!
4. plan a day at the beach
Sometimes all we need is a change of scenery, to experience other places + spaces where we can build new memories. Organising a day at the beach can give your child beach time memories: of the warmth of the sun, the pitching of a shady tent, the aroma of yummy fish + chips, cool fluids, smothered sunscreen, and fresh salty air.
The best thing is? Visiting a beach doesn't need to be stressful or expensive! With these easy-peasy weekly beach activities for kids, your kids will be happy as seagulls – flying above the shore!
beach scavenger hunts
Organise a beach scavenger hunt that the kids will love, by creating a list of items that you may locate by the sea: like a seagull, a piece of bark, seaweed, twigs, rocks, a sandcastle, a lifeguard, and so on. Give your kids a list with items like these on it, so they can locate them all to complete the scavenger hunt and get a reward. (Some hot chips or an icy pole, perhaps?) Speaking of hunting, you can even prepare a marine lesson by printing information from the internet, and then give it to your kids so they can go walking along the shore: to explore and admire any fish, rock pools, and vegetation they might tick off along the way!
Have your child collect shells, driftwood, stones, and sea glass. Once they've collected a mass of supplies, they can use their finds to create a "picture" in the sand – like a mandala, with shells and stones lingering by the shore. Better yet – why not purchase some plant-friendly biodegradable paint, and decorate smooth rocks that you find on the shore (you can also bring rocks from home) as an act of kindness towards the planet? Keen to build more of a monument? Move over, sandcastles!
Take a cue from Frosty the snowman and encourage your kids to create sand people, complete with seashell eyes and stick arms. They can also recreate your family members as a sandy self-portrait!
5. go on a park cleanup!
Speaking of being kind to the planet, there is such joy in doing our bit to keep it clean. It's important to teach kids of all ages about community service—and picking up trash at your local park is a great way to do it!
Take a walk around the park, armed with gloves and trash bags, to gather garbage as a family. You can even do this clean up activity if the weather's a little chilly too; just bundle everyone up with a sweatshirt and close-toed shoes. Even better, make it a brisk, morning activity!
Grab some rubbish bags, put on your sunhat, pack your drink bottles for hydration … and get cleaning! There is nothing more satisfying than teaching your kids to help clean and pretty up the planet. There are always leftover cans, plastics, and paper bits they can find to either recycle or throw away.
6.teach your kids the importance of serving others!
You and your kids can share some of the most important values in life, by getting involved in serving others. Thankfully, there are opportunities everywhere to give your time to those in need. Plan to go with your child to visit a kitchen to help cook for the homeless, visit a nursing home, or go and help pack Christmas hampers for those less fortunate.
By children learning the value of being charitable, they will commonly feel a newfound sense of what it means to have empathy for someone else – by stepping in another’s shoes. Of course, charity can also happen within the walls of your own home; for example, showing an act of gratitude to a parent, watching over a younger sibling, or cheering up a friend.
Best of all, children can learn that serving others can bring good feelings to them and those they serve. In fact, what better way to connect with your children than helping join a great cause to show empathy and love to your fellow humans?
7.have a YES Day
Another great thing to do during the summer is to plan a YES Day – where anything goes!
Simply ask your kids to write up a list of activities that are completely silly and that you probably would never allow on a regular basis. For example: ask if your kids would want to dress in yellow for the day, jump into the pool with clothes on, or make tons of squishy (+ not so healthy) cookie dough to munch on while watching a movie of their choice.
Or go out in the backyard or your local park, lie on a huge blanket and watch the stars twinkle in the sky. Whatever it is you decide to do, it’s important for them just to know – that time is reserved for them and no one else!
8.work on goals together
Whether it’s a physical or mental, working on common goals together with your child teaches them accountability for themselves and others. For example, one of your kids may want to upskill for footy or soccer practice by getting fit over the summer. So, you might create a workout plan for them to complete – and act as their sports coach, complete with a whistle! Not only can it be a lot of fun, and very motivational, but it can provide a bonding experience for you and your child too.
9.get your kids to appreciate nature
In summer, is time when nature starts calling. So why not grab a flashlight, a microscope, some mosquito spray (for those pesky bugs!) – to go backyard camping! Pitch a tent with the kids, hang some fairy lights, and add a sleeping bag or two with some pillows. This is a great way for you to teach your children how to appreciate the outdoors – by building their own nature sanctuary: where you both can spend hours looking for curious creatures and insects; laze in the sun, read together, and graze the day away!
decorate the backyard
Have some fairy princesses in the house, raring to take off and fly? Get your kid’s imagination going and create some heart-shaped leaf confetti with them – to decorate your table or create a heart-driven fairy path with - that may lead you to a magical backyard destination!
Just grab a few baskets, go to your local park, collect some dried leaves, and carry them home in bundles to get the magic started! With simple tools like a heart-shaped hole puncher, a recycled roll of paper and a few reusable garbage bags, collect a full bag of multi-coloured dried leaves, empty them on a long table covered with a recycled roll of paper, and carefully, and with assistance, start punching heart-shaped holes in the leaves.
Careful to use the whole leaf, and then discard the rest into a reusable bag, to then disperse back into its natural environment - and you've just created the perfect fairy craft activity for the kidlets, to djoosh up the look of your backyard camping tent!
10. teach your kids about community
Summertime is never empty of local summer events to go to. They can be found online and could even look like a music concert at your local community park, or a festival or market day featuring cotton candy, rides, and entertainment. Better yet, you can appreciate fresh produce, baked goods, and neat trinkets with your children at a local market. Whatever it is you are doing, you are connecting with your child and teaching them how to support their community at large.
As you and your children’s busy schedules slow down for the summer, start cultivating habits of connection with fun + wholesome activities that will not only bring you both together; but awaken your child’s sense of self + the value of the world around them as well.